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The Memoirs and Appendix contain some original compositions of Sir William Jones, which have not hitherto been published; they are not of equal importance with those of which the public are in possession; there are still more, which I have not ventured to print.
It would have been easy to have enlarged the size of these volumes, but having no ambition to extend them beyond their proper limits, I have confined them as clofely as. I could to the object of them, that of elucidating the life and opinions of Sir William Jones. With this rule constantly in my recollection, I have avoided dissertations on the events of the times; the notice which I have taken of characters incidentally mentioned, is brief and explanatory, only; and I have suppressed many observations, which would have added more to the bulk of the Memoirs, than to the information or entertainment of the reader.
I have now given such explanation on the subject of the Memoirs, as appeared to me
necessary; but I cannot conclude the Preface, without mentioning some information which materially affects an important passage in these Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 249, and which I received from Bengal, long after it had been printed.
The passage alluded to, is stated to be an exact translation from one of the mythological books of the Hindûs; it first appeared in a note annexed by Sir William Jones, to an Elay on Egypt and the Nile, in the 3d vol. of the Asiatic Researches, by Lieutenant (now Captain) Wilford, and relates to Noab (under the designation of Satyavrata) and his three fons.
Captain Wilford has since had the mortification and regret to discover, that he was imposed upon by a learned Hindû, who affifted his investigations, that the Purana, in which he actually and carefully read the paffage which he communicated to Sir William Jones, as an extract from it, does not contain it, and that it was interpolated by the dextrous introduction of a forged fheet, disco
loured, and prepared for the purpose of deception, and which having served this
purpose, was afterwards withdrawn.
The uncommon anxiety of Captain Wilford to re-examine all the authorities quoted in his essay, led to the detection of the imposition, and he immediately determined to publish it to the world, in another essay which he was then preparing, and which I understand to be now printing in Bengal. To guard against the effects of any accident which might prevent the execution of this determination, he communicated the circumftance to his friends, that it might eventually be made known to the public, and in the explanation now submitted to them, I only anticipate the solicitude of Captain Wilford, to expose the imposition which has been practised on him *.
* The particulars of the imposition practised upon him by the pandit, whom he employed in making extracts from the books of the Hindûs, are detailed by Captain Wilford, in the introduction to a work now printing in Bengal, under the title of An ESSAY on the
In vol. ii. p. 175, of the Memoirs, the reader will find mention of an unsuccessful
SACRED Isles in the TVest, with other Essuys connected with that IVork.
In the course of collating the Sanscrit authorities quoted or referred to, in this Essay, he discovered some discolorations in the manuscripts, which led to suspicions of deception, which examination fully verified. The discovery naturally excited an apprehension, that a similar imposition had been practised upon him, with respect to his former Essay on Egypt and the Nile, and he had the mortification to find it well grounded. His first step was to inforın his friends of it, either verbally, or by letters, that he might secere at least the credit of the first disclosure.
“ The forgeries of the pandit, (Captain Wilford ob“ serves,) were of three kinds: in the first, a word or “ two only was altered. In the second, were such le“ gends, as had undergone a more material alteration; " and in the third, all those which he had written from
“ With regard to those of the first class, when he “ found that I was resolved to make a collation of the “ manuscript, he began to adulterate and disfigure his
own manuscript, mine, and the manuscripts of the « college, by erasing the original name of the country, “ and putting that of Egypt or of Swetam in its place.
“ To prevent my detecting those of the second class, “ which were not numerous, but of the greatest import
ance in their nature, (and as books in India are not « bound as in Europe, and
in Europe, and every leaf is loose, he took out one or two leaves, and substituted others with an
attempt of the Hindûs, to impose upon Sir William Jones, a forged Sanscrit book on oaths.
The same fagacity which detected the
“ adulterous legend. In books of some antiquity, it is
not uncommon to see a few new leaves inserted in the room of others that were wanting.
“ To conceal the more numerous impositions of the " third class, he had the patience to write two volumin" ous sections, supposed to belong, one to the Scanda“ Purana, and the other to the Bramánda, in which “ he connected all the legends together, in the usual “ style of the Puranas. These two sections, as he wrote " them, consist of no less than 12,000 slocas or lines, " the title of which he borrowed.”
The above is an extract from Mr. Wilford's Essay, and affords a remarkable though not a singular instance of industry and ingenuity in literary forgeries. I shall only add, from the same Essay, the following lines immediately applicable to the passage which has occasioned
“ A few instances of the impositions of my pandit, “ will exemplify his mode of proceeding. The first is a “ legend of the greatest importance, and is said to be
extracted from the Padma. It contains the history « of Noah and his three sons, and is written in a mas“ terly style. But unfortunately there is not a word « of it to be found in that Purana. It is however “ mentioned, though in less explicit terms, in many " Puranas, and the pandit took particular care in point
ing out to me several passages, which more or less si confirmed this interesting legend." Life_V. I.